After investing in the time and treatment process of tooth realignment through orthodontic therapy, you’ll want to take extra care to maintain the results. Retainers play a key role in securing the position of the teeth, preventing them from relapse after the braces are taken off. There are removable retainers and fixed retainers, the latter that are retainers that are permanently bonded into place on the tongue side of front teeth.
Fixed retainers are typically placed on the lower anterior teeth, bonded on either end to the canine (eye) teeth, or onto each of the front teeth. It is made of a smooth, thin wire that uses the teeth against one another to prevent them from shifting out of place. Sometimes a fixed retainer may also be placed behind the upper two front teeth, especially when a large space was present between the teeth before treatment began, as those areas can relapse easily.
It’s important to leave these retainers in place as long as possible. Sometimes several years later, they may come loose or come off. If that happens, the retainer should be brought to the orthodontist or dental office as early as possible to have it bonded back into place. Even a month or two without the retainer can allow the teeth to shift out of place so that the retainer no longer fits.
Caring for your retainer is important to prevent tartar buildup that contributes to gum disease. Brush around the retainer twice a day and use a floss threader to weave floss underneath the appliance so that thorough plaque removal is achieved. Many people notice that tartar builds up quicker in these areas, so routine dental cleanings are important.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Brett Gluck, DMD, MS, PC
So, you have had your braces off for a year and your dentist asks you if you’re still wearing your retainer. What do you say? Do you know if you’re still supposed to be wearing it or not? The answer is yes. You should be wearing your retainer, and should continue to do so for as long as feasibly possible. The frequency of wear may decrease as time goes by, but even 10 years down the road you should try to wear your retainer a few nights a week.
Why should you continue to wear it? Because teeth naturally shift over time, and avoiding the use of your retainer can cause relapse in your tooth positioning. Teeth naturally shift forward to the front of the mouth as you age, and without a maintenance retainer, yours may do so even after extensive orthodontic therapy. Having a tooth pulled can increase your risk for tooth shifting, so always keep your retainer in a safe place and wear it on a regular basis.
Permanent retainers that are bonded into place behind the front teeth can sometimes fall off. A common misconception by patients is that if the retainer falls off, it can stay off. While they may be cumbersome to keep clean, bonded retainers are an essential part of maintaining tooth positioning after treatment. Similar to not wearing a removable retainer, if your bonded retainer falls off you will most likely experience relapse.
Wearing your retainer for a regular basis is the only way to prevent relapse of your teeth and avoid additional orthodontic treatment. If you find that your retainer breaks or doesn’t fit, see your orthodontist immediately. A new retainer is the only way to ensure proper alignment of your teeth. It doesn’t take very long for teeth to shift out of place without a retainer.
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